A dodgy server at Goldsmiths means that our old web site may not be accessible. So - read the first item on it here, instead - but less some pictures and and some meeting announcments. See what the world was like only 14 years ago
Greenwich Industrial History Society - Aims and Objectives
3. To hold a watching brief on industrial sites in the relevant area and to comment on any issues which might arise in the course of redevelopment, planning applications, etc.
1851 The Year of the great Exhibition
A special event in your community
Some features of the changing landscape
Dan Weinbrein has, of course, made a very considerable contribution to Greenwich’s Industrial History with his study on Arsenal workers in peacetime
WHAT THE SOCIETY HAS BEEN DOING
He took us from the old Station Museum to the riverside, past the site of Henley's cable works and
The new London Teleport - demonstrating only too vividly the role of telecommunications as a continuing industry in the area. On returning we were unexpectedly allowed into the Museum for a welcome break and look round. We continued through the Royal Victoria Gardens, admiring the team hammer on the way. We walked along the riverside - noting the sites of various ferries to Woolwich proper (or South Woolwich as they call it over there!) and then set off for a quick glimpse of the Royal Albert Dock and Gal1ions Hotel.
A long list of interesting sites and subjects was drawn up - the Matchless Motor Cycle Factory, the Uplifting Corsets, barge builders, the collier trade, Siemens, and much much more.
Following the rediscovery of sand workings in Diamond Terrace by Per Schreiber in the 1980s the mine was surveyed by Rod Le Gear and Harry Pearman on 18th August 1986 and this survey published in Volume 15 of the records of the Chelsea Speleological Society (1987)
In Caves and Tunnels in South East England, Part 7 (Chelsea Speleological Society Records Vol. 15) it was reported: “ Per Schreiber was sufficiently inspired to start a house to house survey around the Hyde Vale area and he ran the tunnels to ground, wide open, in someone’s back garden. The resultant survey is shown here”.
Entrance is down a long flight of steps. There are relics of electric cables and signs of use as an air raid shelter. It is mostly of walking height with one short hands and knees section. A few dates and carvings on the walls. The massive roof fall which terminates three tunnels offers the only chance of a dug extension. It occurred when a garden hose was left running on the lawn above.
The drawing which accompanied the above report is reproduced below - with kind permission of Harry Pearman.
When visited in March 1998 there was no obvious deterioration in the condition of the tunnels in the intervening years and they are still as shown in the 1986 survey. Access is down a flight of Yorkshire flag stone steps in the rear garden of Meridian West (built 1972). The present owner of the property has constructed a new inclined entrance, which is kept gated. At the bottom of the steps is a left turn shortly followed by a total roof collapse which occurred in the 1960s after a hose was left running in the garden above. Turning left at the bottom of the stairs there is a crossroads after eight metres. At this point the present owner, E. Morton Wright, has supported the roof with sandbags and timber stemples following the appearance of a large cavity. Turning left (north) at the crossroads the passage ends in a rounded chamber after five metres. Straight on leads to another small rounded chamber (lying under the house) after twelve metres. In this passage close to the crossroads are numerous inscriptions, which appear to date from the Second World War when the tunnels were used as air- raid shelters. There are carved portraits of Shirley Temple and Mussolini and an intricately carved 17th century date which is undoubtedly much more recent. South from the crossroads the passage bends round to the west reaching a T-junction after 11 metres. North leads to the other side of the roof fall at the bottom of the steps and south reaches a natural end after la metres. Close to the junction is more graffiti from World War Two shelterers with dates from the 1940s. Having turned south at the T junction almost immediately there is a crawl way the west with a step up of three metres. This is a low meandering passage which opens first onto a round chamber with several trail headings and after ten metres reached another T junction where it is possible to stand upright again. Turning right (NE) once again leads to the same total roof collapse after six metres. Turning left (SE) at the T junction there is a right hand bend to the north west after six metres (collapse or infill). Close to this second T junction is more graffiti in soot on the roof which is difficult to decipher and on the floor there is the skeleton of a fox cub indicating there must be another way into the tunnels other than the gated entrance - probably through the roof collapse. There is a lot of sand spread over the floor at this point; it is not clear where this had come from as pick marks are still clearly visible in the roof and on the walls. Apart from the entrance passage and two sections close to the crossroads, which are brick lined, the tunnels are unlined throughout with
Long pick marks clearly visible throughout. It is possible to stand upright along most of the galleries. Although the sand appears very soft, there is little evidence of falls other than those already mentioned. The tunnels seem remarkable stable and safe.
There is little evidence to date the workings although Mr. Morton Wright feels that the brickwork dates from the 17th century. The purpose of the mine is also unclear. Silver sand is often used in glass making but the sand has been tested by Pilkingtons who say it would not be suitable. Another major use of sand is as an abrasive for cleaning and there is definite evidence this was one use for Greenwich sand. One elderly resident remembers being told as a child that a man used to come round with a wheelbarrow to collect sand which was sold to local pubs for that purpose. It has also been suggested that it may have been used as hourglass sands.
The future of the existing tunnels seems secure. Although there are plans for a development on an adjacent site is it my opinion that the existing tunnels lie wholly below the garden of Meridian West but there may well be other tunnels yet to be discovered. Some year ago a subsidence appeared in another part of the garden which was quickly filled in and it has been suggested that the major roof fall could be a four-way junction with another passage leading in the direction of the planned development
Mr. Morton Wright is keen to preserve the tunnels. He has installed lighting as far as the crossroads and has used the tunnels on several occasions for cocktail parties.
It is understood that considerable research has been done on the origins of the these tunnels and it is hoped to have more information in the future Julian Watson (Greenwich Local History Library) has said: " It would appear that the existing tunnels are the last visible remains of an extensive network of tunnels examined by members of the Greenwich Antiquarian Society in 1905. John Stone, who wrote 'Greenwich: its underground passages, caverns, etc. [Trans. Greenwich Antiq. Vol. 1, 1914, pp. 262-277] states that the tunnels were in or near Mr. Montmorency's garden ground, 23 West Grove Lane, and says 'I do not know the extent of these excavations but one can wander about in what seems a perfect maze of tunnels for a considerable distance '. John Stone & Rod Le Gear (author of the 1986 report) are certain that the tunnels were dug in order to excavate sand, a material in great demand for many purposes including floor sanding mould making and glass making. The mines are a significant part of Greenwich's industrial heritage.
NORTON'S BARGE BUILDERS
Peartree Wharf owners G.J.Palmer & Sons, Barge and Tug Repairs,
Norton's. Chart ton (foreshore) Barge repairers,
Dorman Long (Bridge Dept.], Dorman Jetty, Dorman Long & Co. Led. 'Phone GRE 0921, bridge constructional engineers,
Greenwich Yacht Club,
Redpath Brown's Steel structural engineers (no mention of a jetty). Phone GRE 2671;
The 1936 'Thames Navigator’s Pocket: Companion', under 'Bugsy’s Reach or the south shore' shows proceeding upstream from the Angerstein branch railway
Christie's Wharf and jetty
British Petroleum Wharf,
Angerstein’s Wharf (Southern Railway)
Anglo-American Oil Wharf
Pear Tree Wharf.
Dorman Long's Store, Wharf
When the New Millennium Experience site is finished only a few original buildings will remain. These are The Pilot pub and the short row of Georgian cottages, called Ceylon Place, The pub is rightly popular and has recently been extended but, alongside it, the small, dilapidated cottages are rarely given a second look. They are currently in use as short life housing and their downmarket looks barely reveal their origins as part of what was once an exciting new development at the end of what is now Riverway.
The cottages date from about 1801, They were built in the lane behind a 'big' house and a huge corn mill which stood on the on the riverfront, In the eighteenth century the site was owned by George Russell, a London soap manufacturer whose works were near Blackfriars Bridge but who lived at Longlands House near Sidcup. In 1801 he was approached by a William Johnson, from Bromley, Kent, who had patented a new design of tide mill. A tide mill is a watermill worked by the power of the tides - a good example can be seen today at Three Mills, behind the Tesco store off the northern Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Russell agreed to the project and construction went ahead on the mill - the cottages and the house were included as the start of 'New East Greenwich'. At the same time Russell got a licence from the City of London to build a causeway down into the river at what was then called 'Bugsby's Hole'. This causeway is still in use today. The site - and perhaps George Russell had some unexplained connections with national politics, In 1801 some of the site was leased to a group of out of office politicians - William Pitt, the recently resigned Prime Minister, his elder brother, the Earl of Chatham, and their associates the Hon.Edward Crags and the Hon. John Eliot. Their role in the development is not clear but it might explain the name of the pub. 'The Pilot' is almost certainly named after William Pitt who was described in a contemporary song as 'The Pilot who weathered the storm', Ceylon, after which the cottages were named, had recently come under the protection of the British Crown,
Two hundred years ago the site must have looked marvellous and romantic. The big mill moving slowly, the big house with gardens going down to the river. Behind it were the cottages and pub overlooking some six acres of millponds with meadows beyond. Nearby was a thatched barn and all around were grazing cows and sheep, Around 1900, when the cottages were a century old, someone built extensions on the backs of them - making them marginally bigger but eating in to what had been pretty gardens, The 'big house', East Lodge, was demolished then and its' site is now used by the Yacht Club. What happened to the summerhouse lookout over the river? Are any of the trees those planted by the Davies sisters who lived there in the nineteenth century? The little cottages have gone on for almost two hundred years serving as housing for local workers - fishermen, mill workers, and barge builders. All around things have changed. The great mill became a chemical works and was replaced by a power station. On the fields behind a steel works was built and - soon more cottages, a mission room and soon more cottages and the pub. The only thing not to have changed seems to be the supply of thirsty workers who drink in The Pilot
These cottages were part of an industrial site and they should not be treated as quaint and countrified. Let us hope that English Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience treat them kindly and take due regard to their age and context
GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY IN PRINT
Editorial on North Woolwich Old Station Museum, April 1996, p. 1
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part I, April 1996, pp 23-32
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part 2, July 1996, pp 14- IS
DLR Lewisham Extension, January 1997, p.36
Tracing the Greenwich Park Branch by Ian Baker, April [997 pp9-12
Work at Greenwich (DLR) October 1997, p. 35
London Railway Record obtainable from Connor & Butler, 69 Guildford Road, Colchester. Essex. O 1 2RZ,
ASPECTS OF THE ARSENAL: The Royal Arsenal Woolwich.
The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal - by Darrell Spurgeon
Tower Place - by Winifred Cutler
Paul Sandby RA 1731-1809. Father of English Watercolour by David Brighton
She Can Sew a Flannel Cartridge in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by Barbara Ludlow
The Royal Artillery in Woolwich by Brigadier K.A. Timbers
A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by J.Fisher
From Domestic to Danger Building: Women Workers in the Royal Arsenal by Bernadette Gillow
The Arsenal and its Co-op Connection by Ron Roffey
The Royal Arsenal workers and Independent Labour Representation. A Beacon in the Dark. by Paul Tyler
Industrial Relations in the Royal Arsenal by William Pearce